Did an old Steve Taylor song borrow one of its lines from an obscure Humphrey Bogart movie?

“It smokes! It drinks! It philosophizes!”

That’s a line from a song by Chagall Guevara, the short-lived band fronted by musician-turned-filmmaker Steve Taylor (who I have interviewed several times, most recently here). You can read the lyrics to the song, which is called ‘I Need Somebody’, here, and you can watch a video of the band performing the song at Greenbelt in 1991, here (the only copy of the album version of this song that I could find on YouTube has been blocked by the record company, although, curiously, a few of the other songs from that album remain available):

You can hear Steve say the words around the 1-minute mark in the video above. My friends and I were always amused by that line, and I think we always imagined that it was concocted by Steve and/or his bandmates. But last night I happened to be watching Beat the Devil (1953), which was the last of the six films directed by John Huston that starred Humphrey Bogart (they had also collaborated on The Maltese Falcon and The African Queen, among others) — and, around the 24-minute mark, Humphrey Bogart himself speaks these words, in reference to the Peter Lorre character:

Did Chagall Guevara get the line from Humphrey Bogart? Or does it go back to some even earlier source? I’m curious, now.

Incidentally, Beat the Devil is a rather odd duck of a film. Co-written by Huston and Truman Capote, it touches on some potentially serious themes, from the political significance of uranium deposits in the atomic age to the de facto husband-swapping that the two main couples flirt with, but always with a very light touch. Indeed, the overriding sensibility is one of amusement, even self-amusement, as exemplified by the consistently breezy dialogue and by camera angles like the one Huston uses in the shot that begins at the 39:40 mark.

Oh, and James Bond fans might get a kick out of the fact that Bernard Lee, the original M, pops up in a small role near the end. The character he plays is named Jack Clayton, which also happens to be the name of the film’s associate producer, which viewers might remember seeing in big letters during the opening credits. Just another of the film’s self-amusements, no doubt.

Update: Steve Taylor responds via Twitter:

Who knew? Never saw it, but that line may be Dave’s. Either way, let’s call it homage…

Very well, let’s!

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).


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